Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Correcting Maxi Pad

Look if I spent all my time correcting El Paso's biggest douchebag, that being Max Powers) I'd never have time for anything else.

You remember him, he's the guy who has a blog about my blog and is definitely not, under any circumstances, Rick Armendariz. Honest.

Anywho, let me correct the baboso...again. I don't live in Socorro, I live in Ysleta.

Yes, I disagree with Rep Gonzalez on two policy issues. But I've disagreed with every elected official in town on policy issues at one point or another. Including, wait for it...County Judge Veronica Escobar. I thought she was wrong on redistricting a few years back. Still do. 

Hell I've often said Rep Acosta reminds me of my mother. I've disagreed with her too.

But most electeds understand that you won't always get 100% agreement on policy. That's part of our system. 

Il Douche doesn't get that because well, he's a pendejo. And because the circle he runs with freaks the hell out when you disagree as a matter of policy with someone. They think it's their way or nothing. But hey, I can't really be too hard on Maxi, the vato has to take friends where he can get them. Most people hate the douche.

So I disagree with Representative Gonzalez on two policy issues. Max just hates her for her sexuality. He claims she lies about it. I say Maxi Pad spends too much time worrying about who other people have sex with. Manuela must be getting boring for him I guess.

That being said I also totally disagree with the assertion made by another Texas blogger that Rep Gonzalez is the best thing going for El Paso. Not sure how that guy comes to that conclusion at all, but he doesn't live here.

The last thing I wanna address is Maxi Pad's assertion that I'm afraid to call out Gonzalez. The idiot just wrote a blog about how I did call her out.

People know who I am. I have a saying, I don't write something I wouldn't say to someone's face.

Max can't say the same. I have the balls to stand by what I wrote. It's not always easy, but info it. Max is afraid to.

And there's a reason he is.

Return of the Gandaras

The Gandaras are back in office in Socorro. Another cousin has been elected to office in Socorro and he's filling the seat omce held Jesse Gandara.

What's Jesse been up to these days? Well aside from running a Facebook page everyone in town knows is his, he's been getting ready for trial in January.

But he apparently took time to walk his cousin into the administration building in Socorro yesterday for a sit down with the city manager. The one thing everyone was concerned about was the return of Jesse. 

The new Ganadara took office last night and he is filling the rest of the term of the late Chito Bowling who stomped a mud hole in Jesse Gandara in the special election last year.

People in Socorro are pretty forgiving and willing to give people a chance but the new Gandara showing up to city hall admin with his now infamous cousin isn't exactly starting things off on the right foot.

Interestingly Socorro isn't giving up the video from the admin building that shows the Gandaras going in and out of the building to meet with the City Manager, but luckily Yours Truly actually witnessed the whole thing.

Although truth be told I also saw the new Gandara go out of his way to start a conversation with another member of council who happened to be heading in to the office after Jesse left.

Interestingly when you visit the admin building you're required to sign in. Jesse didn't sign in. I know because I did sign in and his name wasn't on the list. 

I guess he's allowed to roam the place like his still in office while the common folk have to sign in.

I'll keep you posted on the new Gandara. Maybe he's different.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

So Valenti is Doing a Super Job Right?

According to an article in the El Paso Times by Diana Washington-Valdez, University Medical Center (UMC) is getting slapped with a fine.

That has an impact on the tax payer no matter how this tries to get spun.

The fines are from penalties the feds are whacking UMC with because of health problems people acquired while they were hospitalized for something else if I understand correctly.

That means that is such a problem at UMC that it rises to the level of getting punished for it.

UMC's side of the story, and it has some merit, is the fact that we are under-insured and under-cared for so when we go to UMC, we are therefore more likely to get something else. That makes sense and is basically reasonable.

But it doesn't explain away the issue entirely. Look, no matter how this tries to get shaped, UMC scored the worst possible score for "hospital-acquired conditions". UMC earned a 10, with 10 being the worst possible score you can possibly achieve.

Interestingly Valenti is keeping a low profile and isn't quoted in the piece, which shows that UMC is learning from their previous press coverage. But it certainly re-focuses us all on that bonus. I mean I don't know how anyone can think being slapped with a penalty could be put in the good category.

I'll close with this, Javier Gonzalez was quoted in the article as saying, "We will continue to deliver unparalleled care and remarkable patient outcomes." He's the quality control guy for UMC.

I have to say Mr. Gonzalez, you hit the nail on the head.

Scoring the worst score possible is pretty unparalleled and remarkable.

Valley School Board Problems

I've been practically screaming at the top of my lungs for months about the problems at Clint ISD and there is no action from the "education representative".

Maria Garcia of KVIA did a story on Tornillo's school board problems last year.

Fabens school board members are about ready to face the wrath of the community as well. It seems like several school districts with major issues have all popped up in the valley. It might seem like that, but this isn't a new problem. This is a problem that has plagued the valley for years and why people have such little trust in local government.

Its a damn shame too.

First, props to Maria Garcia and KVIA for doing the story and shining light on an issue that is a big problem. She was probably tipped by a community member to go out and cover the story and good for her for doing so.

But if more people knew the crap that was going on, there's no way it would be tolerated. Tornillo's ISD did a forensic audit and God only knows what their findings were but when a school board starts banning public comment, there's a freakin' problem. When the superintendent starts banning community members from campuses, a power he doesn't even have, there's a freakin' problem.

And thats just Tornillo.

My people in Fabens tell me about a school board member who allegedly led the effort to fire someone because his kid wasn't getting enough playing time on the football team and highly questionable alleged spending practices by the Board.

That's not even bringing up the problems in Clint.

Geez, somebody do something. That community is begging for help.

I guarantee that if this stuff happened in El Paso, there'd be hell to pay. Media would be all over it. The public would be up in arms.

But as always, "only in the valley".

Monday, December 29, 2014

El Paso Legislative Priorities

The next session of the Texas legislature will be starting soon and El Paso's delegation has filed their normal pile of bills. I'm still going through most of them but a couple of them are noteworthy.

The weed bill and the cow bill.

Representative Joe Moody (HD 78) has filed a bill that has drawn praise from newspapers across the state of Texas (San Antonio, Houston, Dallas) but for whatever reason really hasn't gained any attention here in El Paso. Essentially what Moody wants to do is decriminalize user amounts of weed.

Its probably the most common-sense approach to dealing with the "War on Drugs" anyone in the delegation has ever proposed. We pay more for our judicial system and jail system in El Paso County than anywhere else in the state. Decriminalizing weed is likely a pretty good tax-saver for El Paso. 

Moody is a former prosecutor, so he's got some clout and street cred being the state representative that introduces the bill. If this bill was introduced by some hippie rep from Austin it would be dead on arrival but the bill being introduced by a border rep that is a law and order guy gives it some legs.

That being said, the bill still has an uphill battle. And by uphill, I mean steep.

The fate of this bill is going to be largely tied to the speakers race. The crazy nut-ball tea party wing of the Texas Republican Party is attempting a coup to take over the speaker's seat. They are going to lose that battle, but they are making the push nonetheless. 

Moody needs a Republican with some clout to back up his play on the bill. So while the more Libertarian-leaning members of the House might be willing to jump on board, it would likely be a death sentence for the bill because of their efforts to "Oust Strauss" as they say.

Moody needs an establishment Republican to go along with the bill. Thats the key to whether or not the bill is going to pass. 


The other bill of note is the cow bill. Look, cows are not a priority to this community. Even in the valley there are strong voices opposing the re-introduction of dairies to the community.

But lets look at this from an economic development perspective. Dairies don't produce good jobs. They are profitable for the farmers, many of which I know and respect greatly, but the reason they are profitable is because they have to keep their over head low. That means they don't pay the hands a lot of money. And frankly, there aren't that many jobs there anyway because they are mostly family operations. 

Its time for legislation to help crack-down on what is going on in Clint. There are thousands of constituents in the area that are getting hosed and need an advocate at the state level to protect them. Especially in Montana Vista, Horizon, and Agua Dulce.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Here's a gift for Maxi Pad

(If you love Creepy Rob Lowe and Steve Carell, stick around until the end of this one.)

Well since I seem to be the object of obsession for Maxi Pad lately I thought I'd give him a little gift this Christmas.

The gift of laughter. 

Maxi Pad, who is definitely not Rick Armendariz of Forma Group (no seriously, I really mean it, honest to gosh) has been pretty obsessed with me lately. 

And while I firmly believe Maxi Pad and Martin Paredes should be able to be legally wed in all 50 states, I am regrettably going to have to turn down Maxi Pads advances. While I am impressed that you purchased my name as a domain name and point it to your blog (not creepy at all) and I'm flattered that you care about my hair cuts, my sex life, the fact that i don't drink over-priced beverages in order to maintain some status, my junk, how I speak, my affinity toward cholas, and the way I dress, I am however, uninterested in being the top to your bottom.

But fear not Maxi Pad, I know a nice young lady that wears scrubs to work every day that you might know. Maybe she has a brother you might be interested in. I'll put in a good word.

But hey, since you were so insistent that you aren't Rick Armendariz, and even made a demand of me that I complied with, I thought you'd get a kick out of this. 

Here's a little secret for you Maxi Pad, Commissioner Lewis used to accuse me of actually being you. He used to actually call me Max at the office. So here's a little Christmas separated-at-birth candy for both of you. 

Merry Christmas you two...

Friday, December 19, 2014

City Hall Christmas Party

In the never-ended drama headquarters of west Texas that is El Paso City Council, there was an interesting incident recently.

Sources at city hall indicate that there was a holiday party that was supposed to be for city staff and it was hosted by City Reps Limon and Robinson. Limon likes to through a lot of parties from what I'm told.

Anywho, the staff from the other city rep offices weren't invited to the exclusive little shin dig. Having been a staffer, thats a pretty big violation of staffer code. Typically staff have an unwritten rule that while you are always expected to remain loyal to the boss, you still have to get along with the other staff.

So having a party for all city staff but not inviting your colleagues' staff is not only a ZAS to the colleagues, but it creates bad blood with staff. That is NEVER a good thing for an elected that has to work with other electeds.

Funny part is, from what I hear from city hall peeps, Robinson and Limon allegedly has the huevos to not invite their colleagues' staff (or the colleagues for that matter), but also asked the city reps for $100 each to help pay for the party.

$800 Christmas Party? Dayum, thats a hell of a party...

If my math is correct, that's about 8 times as much as the value of last year's Eddie Holguin Shaver lights display.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

City Council Races

I'll make this quick.

It's pretty quiet out there in terms of city council candidates. If a serious contender plans on making a move against any of the incumbent city reps, they had better make the move pretty quickly. It takes longer to defeat them. It also takes more money.

I haven't heard about a single opponent for any of the three incumbents (Reps Niland, Noe, and Ordaz), much less serious contenders. Based on previous performances it's not likely any of them will actually get any serious opposition either.

Sure, an ankle-biter or two may make a bid, but no one credible. With Niland someone would have to come up with a lot of cash to take her on. Good luck with that, fundraising was her profession. Ordaz has money left over from the special election and made a statement with her win. She has been very non-controversial and has a campaign team that are as close to unbeatable as you can get. Dr. Noe is the only one that is remotely close to being classified as vulnerable. And even then, he has little to fear from "the swimming community".

District 1 will likely be the Wild West because it's the open seat. But even then, I'm not hearing anyone really credible joining Svarzbein in the race. Not yet anyway and it's getting late.

Tic toc, tic toc.

More on Marquez

I wanted to clarify a couple points about my piece yesterday having to do with what happens when the senator eventually leaves his seat.

First, the main point of what I wrote was the fact that Marquez is the most likely to run, but least likely to win. Not sure how any of you interpreted what I said any differently, but that was my point.

Do I think she's qualified? Yes, certainly. More so than one or two other members of the delegation to be sure.

The other thing I wanted to underscore is that she's tougher than most people give her credit for. I have two reasons for thinking this.

#1 - she's terrible at relationship management which surprisingly doesn't appear to have hurt her in Austin yet, but has at home. She can't keep political allies and constantly has to keep looking for another port in the storm. That has to suck. Especially as she looks towards playing the long game in politics. I mean she's really put herself on an island.

#2 - she had to deal with a real asshole a while back. Some jerk in cyberspace was harassing her, making fun of her, and made a threat against her. Eventually law enforcement was involved and well, when you threaten a public official you have to know that law enforcement takes that stuff seriously. That guy learned that you're never really totally anonymous on the Internet. He was eventually found out.

And faceless assholes that harass, make fun of, and threaten someone anonymously online are cowards and total Dicks. No one likes a total Dick.

Funny thing...that same guy didn't learn his lesson and did the same thing to me. I figured out who he was and confronted him. Funny how the people that do that are all pretty brave until you figure out who they are.

Then they aren't so brave anymore.

Marquez has had to deal with that and I admire her for being strong and not being intimidated by that kind of stuff. In fact, I'd love to see her come up with some legislation to protect people from those faceless anonymous Dicks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

So What Happens When Senator Rodriguez Moves On?

So that buzz around town is that Senator Rodriguez may be on his last ride in Austin. Whether or not that is actually true remains to be seen but it will no doubt create another shuffling of the deck.

Who wants the job most? Probably State Representative Marisa Marquez. The Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) will likely make it rain on her should she make the bid for the seat.

If she runs, it will leave her seat open. I'm sure a myriad of candidates will line up for that job. I'm not convinced that she's the only member of the delegation what will take a stab at the seat either.

Rookie mistake.

Here's the thing about state representatives. As much as they hate to hear it, they have less influence with the electorate than a member of city council. Thats not an exaggeration either.

Think about it, state reps run every two years and since the session only meets once every two years, they are really only relevant once every two years.

Members of city council, or commissioners court for that matter, are relevant every week. Thats why state reps are always so hungry for media attention, because they don't get it often.

Another disadvantage a state rep has for pursuing a Senate seat is the fact that they run in districts. The Senate seat is actually slightly larger than countywide. Someone who is a known commodity to voters countywide has a much better shot at winning the race than say Marquez.

Here's what I mean, people who have run citywide or county wide already understand how much more difficult it is, and more expensive, to run a race on a larger scale. So someone like Marquez would certainly have a lot of money, but there are other leaders in town that could and would raise big money on their own.

To say nothing of the fact that the Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA) isn't going to just sit around and let their Republican adversaries (TLR) gift wrap a race for Marquez.

And lets be real, Marquez has gotten by because she always (very smartly I might add) takes on weak opponents.

The reality is the TTLA is probably going to find a female candidate, one who probably already has the ability to raise a ton of local money, something Marquez doesn't really do, dump a lot of money on the candidate, and make sure its a candidate that can win in an area larger than a state rep district.

In that scenario it would be difficult to see how Marquez would be a viable candidate.

Especially if she runs into a candidate that can leverage a message better than her previous opponents have. She escaped the wrath of voters for supporting Dee Margo over Joe Moody in a district race, but in a very partisan countywide race, a Democratic primary would be even more difficult. Especially now that Margo is even less popular than before. Any candidate worth a damn is going to hang him around her neck like a boat anchor.

Plus, she's running out of teams to be on. Norma Chavez elected her but not before Marquez had pissed off so many members of her own campaign team that they ditched her on Election Day. Then she ditched Norma.

She ran to the progressive crowd, but well that doesn't look like its working out for her anymore. She really has put herself on an island. Just her one other elected official. Its getting lonely out there...

More on other prospects soon...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Okay, I know what you are thinking...

You're watching City Council right now (okay, let's be real, you aren't) and you see Rep Limon on the screen. 

The first thing you think is, hey what gives! She's not wearing lime today.

The next thing you think is, hey she looks like she's dealing poker on a riverboat casino.

I feel you, I thought the same thing.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Answering Maxi Pad's Blackmail

Okay so today is the black mail deadline. To bring you up to speed, Maxi Pad has apparently tried to use me in a weird bid to black mail the County Judge.

He apparently has emails that are supposed to be a big deal. Personally I think he's full of it. The reality is Maxi Pad just wants a public hand job.

But hey, I find the black mail bid entertaining. So I'll play along.

I'm supposed to say that Maxi Pad is not Rick Armendariz or anyone affiliated with Forma Group. 

So, "Max Powers is not Rick Armendariz or anyone else affiliated with Forma Group".

Now that I've done that, let's see what happens.

Your move Maxi Pad...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

UPDATE: Chairman Maya Health

I visited Chairman Maya today and since so many of you are asking how he's doing I thought I'd pass on a quic update.

His health is improving. The stroke affected his mobility but there was no cognitive impact. In other words it didn't affect his ability to continue as the Chairman of the El Paso Democratic Party.

We talked about the news and some other stuff.

He will be at the facility he is at right now for about a month and probably go home after that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Democracy Alive and Well in San Elizario

Last night the San Elizario city council ultimately did the right thing. After a controversial agenda item that would've made property owned by the mayor's parents the temporary city hall, the council voted to no longer consider the location.

The City of San Elizario is going to pursue securing a lease for property that was once a fire station but now belongs to the San Elizario Independent School District as its location for city hall.

Ultimately that makes more sense because they need a long-term plan for city hall. As it is now the current council has to make do. A lot of city business is conducted via cell phone and home visits. That simply won't work.

I went to the city council meeting and most of the council and many in the audience seemed offended that people showed up to the meeting that don't normally go to city council meetings. Council is going to have to grow thicker skin. That is the nature of politics and only a very small fraction of people actually show up to city council meetings. There's about 10 regulars at El Paso city council meetings. There's actually about the same in the city of Socorro even though it has a far smaller population.

The community needs to learn to accept that as well. When something is controversial the media is going to show up. Why?

Because its their job.

They weren't there for the other highlight agenda of the night, the menudo fundraiser. They were there for the controversial item. One prominent member of San Elizario chastised the media for showing up to the meeting stating that "you guys only show up to stir things up and never come around for something good." His wife in tern chastised him for saying that, which was cute in the way that couple who have been married for a long time bicker.

I told him, "well a plumber only shows up when there's a problem too."

The point is, you have to realize that the media will show up if something is controversial. The media showed up a lot when Socorro was trying to annex San Elizario and I don't know a single person in town that had a problem with the media showing up for that. They appreciated the benefit of having coverage from media. It gave them the leverage and momentum they needed.

And have no doubt, had they selected Maya's Garden as the spot for city hall, its would've been a problem. In any city in America, it would've been a controversy if a city leased property for city hall from the parents of the mayor. Look at all the controversy over city hall in El Paso. So don't kid yourselves, it would've looked pretty bad to the public.

Of course anyone in San Elizario knows that I personally used to refer to Maya's Garden as "city hall" back when we were working with the community to fight the annexation by Socorro and later during the incorporation effort.

But that was a joke because they weren't incorporated and it was the main community meeting spot.

Now that they are incorporated and there are public funds involved, its no longer fun and games. Its serious business.

To be clear, I don't think anyone had any malicious intent. I don't think there was a single person involved that was trying to pull some kind of tranza. It was primarily a function of the fact that San Elizario is a very small place and there aren't a lot of properties to choose from. Clint, just up the road on FM 1110 has city hall that is smaller than the barracks I was in during Basic Training.

There were about 30 adults present for the meeting, many of which were involved in the incorporation effort. Most present were in favor of the Maya's Garden site. There were a few present that were opposed to the location and they spoke during public comment as well.

Here's video from Paul Johnson, a prominent resident of San Elizario that was opposed to the Maya's Garden location.

The bottom line here is that San Elizario showed that democracy works. The issue was controversial but the process was open and transparent. After deliberation with the community the process worked.

Clint Board Member Hasn't Been Sworn-In

A source in Clint ISD indicates that one of the school board members that recently won a seat in the last election has not taken office yet.

The source indicates that Hilda James allegedly isn't taking office because of a policy relating to nepotism.

Apparently there is a policy in the Clint ISD that basically says that you can't be a board member if you have a relative (probably some level of consanguinity is defined in the policy) that works for the district. The source indicates that you can't take office if said relative has worked for the district for less than 6 months prior to taking office.

I'm doing more research to see the exact policy and to check to see if the policy says 6 months before the election or taking office.

But at any rate, my source indicates that Ms. James allegedly publicly indicated that she was going to wait until the 6 months is up before she takes the oath of office.

If true, then constituents are going to go without full representation in order to allegedly assist someone circumvent a policy relating to nepotism.

Obviously there are ethical issues if the sources information is accurate but there may be some other issues at play. Specifically in what way, if any, does the Texas Hold-Over clause apply to this situation.

More to come, this one may end up being a big deal...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

More Drama in Clint ISD

I'm working on a piece about Clint ISD that I'll post tomorrow after I track down a few things.

Interestingly in a climate where people are starting to lose confidence in their local governments, this is going to be yet another blow to public confidence.

Details tomorrow...

Say It Ain't So Joe (Muench)

Look I get why Maxi Pad is all on Valenti's sack lately. He's sore at the County Judge and Vince Perez for taking away business from Forma Group. Forma would've normally ran the Judge's race and other races that they don't get hired to run anymore or they are reduced to a more limited role than they used to have. So it makes sense that he's blasting them on the regular.

So if they're against Valenti, he's gonna be for him. Makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is why Muench writes a political column for the Times. I mean the guy is more of a sports guy. Sez here (I stole that from him) he was better off writing tidbits about Miner football.

Seriously, its time to bench Muench.

In last week's column Muench basically said that El Pasoans are upset that Valenti got the bonus because he's rich. Well at least Muench acknowledges that across the board, people are upset about the bonus, so he got that part right. And frankly thats far more than what William Hanson and the UMC Board of Directors is willing to admit.

But equating people that are rightfully upset about a bonus with the crazies is well, crazy. The crazies are people that are angry for the sake of being angry, and/or angry because their particular faction lost power. Its why they are in a Democratic congressional candidate's commercial until he lost and then showed up in a Republican candidates commercial. That and because she had an intense desire for attention. They are religious nuts that want to be taken seriously as candidates but don't know a single thing about policy. They are people that run for office mostly because they want a little attention.

Those are the crazies.

Being upset that the CEO who just let go 50-something employees because of money problems then is awarded a nice fat bonus several times the average salary of an El Pasoan is pretty righteous. Seriously, Muench is semi-retired but I'm pretty sure that if there were massive lay-offs while he was in the newsroom at the Times and the head honcho then turned around and got a fat bonus he'd be pretty upset too.


Speaking of upset, did you see the email exchange between the County Judge and Hanson when she asked for his resignation?

Two things about that.

#1 - he said no and there isn't a damn thing the commissioners can do about it. Which reminds me, Martin Paredes is a total dumbass. Commissioners Court can call for a review of the UMC budget from here to across the street, but it doesn't fix a single problem. Mostly because the budget they are operating on was already formulated and approved and the one for next year isn't up for formulation or review until next year.

#2 - Hanson shows exactly how detached from reality he and the other board members are from the reality of the situation and public sentiment. Hanson's characterization of the Judge and the Court as "political posturing" and "intimidation" is simply arrogant and ignorant all at once.

The public expects the Court to do something. The problem is they have no power to do anything because County government is the weakest form of government there is in Texas. Efforts to try to strengthen county government have been killed off by a member of our own delegation in the last session.

So the something that the court did was show up at your monthly meeting. That's what you found intimidating? The judge tweeted and Vince worse his suspenders. Hanson, you are an appointed member of a board. You have no political future in El Paso. If your intimidated by Vince Perez you should reconsider things in your life. Seriously, Vince is 110lbs soaking wet, with his boots and suspenders on. An intimidating figure he does not cut.

The truth is County Judge Escobar has been criticized for being such a strong supporter of Valelnti and UMC in the past. Lets be real, Valenti and the board wouldn't have the new clinics they just got if it wasn't for the very three most vocal critics of Valenti now, Judge Escobar and Commissioners Leon and Perez. Those are the three that voted in favor of the clinics. They are now the three most vocal clinics.

The fact that she and the Court are now so critical of the UMC board and the relationship has deteriorated so badly is an indication of just how bad things are. When even your biggest supporters are now the ones telling you that you made a mistake and need to fix it, be a responsible Board Member and do so. Period.

Hanson and Valenti sure didn't mind all that "political posturing" and "intimidation" when they were voting for their clinics did they?

Play this movie to the end. Valenti will be ousted and the board members that supported him will not be reappointed. I don't get why you people want to end your own service with UMC for the sake of someone else's fat bonus, but hey its your funeral.

Before I wrap this up, I have to give Laura Ponce some credit. She rightfully pointed out in the meeting that communication is terrible at UMC right now and she also rightfully pointed out the reason. Because half of the communication staff was let go by Valenti. So of course there's a communication problem!

Valenti, who normally loves a camera more than Eddie Holguin did, probably thought they weren't necessary because he felt he was so good on camera.

We see how well that decision worked out...

Controversy in Selection of San Eli City Hall

The City of San Elizario will face one of its first controversies as Texas' newest incorporated town this evening when city council takes up the issue of the selection of a city hall location.

The controversy is over the fact that the City of San Elizario seems prepared to lease property that is owned by Mayor Maya Sanchez's father, Ben Sanchez, for use as a city hall.

The location, called Maya's Garden, is on Socorro Road just as you enter the heart of the community. The location has been a natural meeting place for the community during the incorporation effort back when a previous city council in the neighboring community of Socorro was trying to annex San Elizario.

That effort was spearheaded by then-City Councilman Jesse Gandara. Gandara will be going to trial on several different charges next month, one of which is relating to an alleged attempt to bribe prominent members of the San Elizario community in exchange for their support of the annexation effort.

The Sanchez family was among many people involved in the effort to fight the annexation by Socorro and incorporate as their own community. Maya Sanchez emerged as the primary leader in the efforts and Ben Sanchez held all the community meetings related to the effort at the aforementioned property. To my knowledge he always donated the use of the facility for those events so that the community would have a please to meet and strategize.

The reality is the location is naturally going to be considered a logical choice. Its well known in the community. It was the primary meeting location for the incorporation effort as well as the effort to prevent the annexation of San Elizario by the City of Socorro. Maya's Garden is easily accessible from the main road into the community and its a large building. Currently the City of San Elizario has no structures were their government is housed or business is conducted. The San Elizario School District currently allows the City use of their board room to hold the town council meetings.

The City needs a structure to conduct city business. It doesn't have to be very large. Clint has a very small municipal building. But they nonetheless need a place for people to request permits, pay tickets, etc. The City of San Elizario has been running pretty much by cell phone so far.

At one point there was an offer from SEISD to lease portable buildings to San Elizario for use as city hall.

San Elizario is a small place. Many people are related to one another so the issue of someone being related to a member of council isn't all that remarkable.

However, a close relative of any mayor in the county potentially profiting off of leasing property to the city would be controversial in any community.

The San Elizario City Council meeting is this evening at 6:00pm at the SEISD School Board Chambers. I'll attend the meeting tonight and get as many details and ask as many questions as possible.

I'll attend the meeting and get more information and lay out both sides of the conversation. I will live tweet the meeting so follow me on twitter @TheLionStarBlog

Monday, December 8, 2014

Funeral Services for Rita Sariñana

Here are the details of the funeral services for Rita Sariñana.(pictured with her daughter and Senator Shapleigh)

Visitation 5-9 PM 12-10-14 at Hillcrest Funeral Home on Carolina and Yarbrough. Vigil Service at 7 PM. 

Mass 9:00 AM at Cristo Rey Catholic Church on Thursday 12-11-14.

Internment to follow at Fort Bliss National Cemetery.

Congressman O'Rourke to Hold Town Hall Meetings

You can hear from your Congressman this weekend. 

Here are the details:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

*General Town Hall*
Eastwood High School Theater
2430 McRae Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
9 a.m. to 10 a.m. 

*Veteran Town Hall*
Eastwood High School Theater
2430 McRae Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

We Have Another Bum Steer in El Paso

Actually two.

That's right, for the second time in a long while Texas Monthly named some from the 915 to the list. 

Lucky us. That's sarcasm.

Ann Morgan Lilly and Lily Limon made the list. But really, it's about Lily Limon and the fact that she apparently can't play nice with others.

Here's the article and a fun little cartoon that goes along with the piece.

Could've been worse, they could've given it to her for the light display at the park. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Prominent Democratic Party Activist Passed Away

Rita Sariñana, a long-time Democratic Party activist passed away earlier this evening.

Mrs. Sariñana was in declining health over the last few years. 

Despite her declining health she was a constant fixture at early voting locations in the valley.

She was known for her trademark glasses and hats and was always smiling. 

Funeral arrangements are being made.

Svarzbein Campaign Kick-off

If what I'm told by a source is accurate, then Peter Svarzbein is a legit candidate and coming out early was the best thing he could've done.

I'm told the Svarzbein campaign raised around $17,000 at his campaign kick-off event. That's about half of what he needs to win in that race if there's a field of legitimate candidates. That's big money for a city council race and I can't recall another time that a single kick-off event for a council seat raised that kind of money.

I don't know how much he already has and a good campaign will have money ready to go, but even if he had zero in the bank, $17k is still impressive. He's gonna need to duplicate that effort before its all said and done.

We will see what the numbers look like officially when the campaign finance reports come out soon. Either way coming out that early and raising that kind of money is impressive. If he starts block walking now, he may kill most opposition in the cradle.

By the way, he's an artist that works with photography and video so expect him to have the coolest campaign stuff. I think I saw a sticker in some photos from the even that said #TeamPedro. Cool idea for the west side. Most people won't have a problem realizing Pedro is Peter on the ballot.

What's the over-under for how quickly we see Vote for Pedro shirts floating around on the west side?

BTW - David K did an election piece and you should check it out. He's certainly right about one of the candidates having some black marks on his record. He's not kidding about that. It's pretty bad and will likely mean he's not going to be a viable candidate. I'll keep you posted as it develops.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Update: Demo Chair Released From Hospital

El Paso County Democratic Party Chairman Glenn "Butch" Maya has been released from UMC. Chairman Maya has been released to a rehabilitation facility until he recovers more use of his left side.

His health has improved enough to be moved to the rehab facility. No indication as to the length of time he will be at the facility.

I was unable to reach the Chairman for more details.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

County Public Works Director Salary

Patricia Adauto, who is retired from the City of El Paso and has been called in to head the Public Works Department at the County, is apparently making a pretty healthy salary.

I'm not sure if she's there on an interim basis or if she's there permanently but word around the Courthouse is that she's pulling down $12k per month in her current position. That means she's making $144,000 per year, not counting any benefits she might be receiving.

Thats a pretty steep jump over the former Public Works Director Ernie Carrizal. County records indicate that he was making about $131,000 per year.

Don't get me wrong, I know the reality is that you have to pay a competitive wage if you want to attract the best talent. My only question is why so much more than the previous director.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Svarzbein Campaign Announcement

Judicial Uproar...You 'Memmer, Memmer?

A few years ago a guy named Manny Barraza very famously declared in a debate in the courthouse that "there is no corruption in this courthouse".

That was after the FBI had raided then County Judge Anthony Cobos' office. 

That guy Barraza would eventually become a judge. Then he faced charges himself and did some prison time. He's now a paralegal with some attorney here in town. I forget who.

Well I used to think no other quote would ever approach Barraza's in terms of irony. 

Until last year. You memmer, memmer?

When one of the judges charged up to Commissioner's Court, thumped his chest and defiantly questioned County Commissioner Vince Perez, "What is the problem?"

It was quite the scene. He did so because he was pissed about what the Commissioner was looking into regarding indigent defense. 

How dare he interfere with the judiciary? was the prevailing sentiment among the judges. Not all of them of course. And certainly not all of the attorneys either. 

You aren't an attorney, you don't know what this data even means was what many in the legal community said of the effort to discuss the increase in expenditures toward indigent defense from one fiscal year to the next. 

The problems that have been outlined in a recent article in the El Paso Times were raised by Commissioners Court when they were doing their job for tax payers. There were asking why there was such an increase in costs for indigent defense spending (20% increase from one fiscal year to the next). 

That led to more questions about the system and if it is in compliance with the Fair Defense Act. Commissioner Perez also wanted to know why so much of the money allocated for indigent defense went to so few attorneys. 

Ultimately the article in the El Paso Times laid out the findings of a Texas Indigent Defense Commission review of the way attorneys are appointed to indigent cases by judges in El Paso county. So to answer the question posed to Commissioner Perez by the aforementioned judge, according to the TIDC, apparently there are a lot of problems.

Specifically the Commission found that cases were not fairly distributed among defense lawyers and inmates were not assigned legal representation in a timely manner. 

Let me explain why the timely manner is a big deal. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that for a county our size that the person should get counsel within one working day of the request for counsel around 90% of the time. Well the TIDC found that El Paso County meets the 1 business day standard only 62% of the time in felony cases. El Paso County falls short by nearly 30%.

That has a huge financial impact to the community when you consider it costs tax payers around $100 a day to house an inmate. Do the math...HUGE FISCAL IMPACT.

The Times article has statements from the Council of Judges that distances themselves from the findings but also sorta pats themselves on the back for changes they've made that aren't reflected in the report.

What the statement doesn't tell you is that the only reason those changes even came about what because Commissioner Perez and Commissioners Court started asking questions and called for a state audit. From my recollection there was no move by the Council of Judges to institute reform prior to Commissioner Perez raising the issue. Instead, they publicly defended the system and didn't want it to change. 

In an effort to explain his position to defense attorneys the Commissioner set up a meeting with the lawyers so that he could tell him what he was asking about and get their feedback. They practically tarred and feathered Perez at the meeting.

Interestingly the ones that would've benefited most from a more fair case distribution system were defense attorneys. But some of the most vocal attorneys that did everything they could to cross-examine Perez when they had the chance were the same attorneys that benefited from the old system. It makes sense, they were doing quite well financially under the system that was found to be out of compliance with the Fair Defense Act and were blistering Perez with their commentary. It got downright rude in that meeting. One attorney, Joe Spencer even brought Commissioner Perez's father into the conversation for some reason.

It was ugly.

Now its pretty much quiet. But for a while it got pretty rough around the courthouse. Rumors were flying all over the place about unhappy judges and lawyers threatening to try to find an opponent for Perez. 

That talk has died down now. 

In the following spring there was an episode of ABC 7 Xtra devoted to the topic and it followed the Council of Judges decision to postpone a pay increase for defense lawyers. Again the Council of Judges patted themselves on the back but never explained the necessity of implementing a pay raise for the defense lawyers in the middle of the fiscal year that would've cost county tax payers about $500,000 in an immediate budget impact.. Nonetheless they took credit for postponing it.

My favorite part of the ABC 7 Xtra show about the topic that featured Commissioner Perez and prominent attorney Jim Darnell was the part where Darnell quotes Mark Twain when discussing the preliminary statistics that the Precinct 3 office had compiled and analyzed. Check this video out at 8:28 seconds. Its priceless. 

Darnell quoted Twain saying, "There are liars, there are damned liars, and there are statistics." He goes on to say, "These statistics simply aren't accurate. They paint a nice picture but they don't tell the story..."

Wonder if Darnell still thinks the "statistics simply aren't accurate" now that the TIDC has pretty much said, as Commissioner Perez puts it in the Times article, "We were not wrong on a single point...My whole request was based on the way attorneys were appointed with the wheel. There was no rotation, so that was confirmed."

Make no mistake about this. No part of this is good. El Pasoans get hung up on the wrong things. We worry about the superficial but let the big stuff get by us. We pay some of the highest costs for our jails compared to the rest of the state. Indigent defense costs went up by 20% in one year.

That is a lot more than Valenti's bonus.

We can't afford any of it.

Congressman-Elect Hurd Meet & Greet in San Elizario

Congressman-elect Hurd will hold a meet and greet in San Elizario on Wednesday, December 3rd.

The event will take place at El Bandido Cantina and Restaurant.

Hurd is scheduled to be there from 1:30pm to 2:45pm. The address for the location is 1591 Main Street, San Elizario, Texas.

Hurd, a Republican, defeated Democratic Congressman Pete Gallego in the November general election.

Monday, December 1, 2014

MP & MP...Dumb & Dumber on Valenti Bonus

Look there's a pecking order in the blogosphere and the two bottom feeders know it. I'm the blogger those two write about, not the other way around. I rarely if ever dignify them with a click. They can believe that or not, I really don't care.

But the irony of both of them having the initials MP hasn't been lost on me. Its convenient because most of the time I think they are mas pu....anyway.

Since I can't get people to stop emailing me the stupid stuff they've said on Valenti, I thought I might as well address it, which will likely lead to the two of them writing more about me. But thats what bottom feeders do anyway. Its the lay of the land and they can continue.

Lets start with Maxi Pad. The way that guy has been defending Valenti, it wouldn't shock me if Forma Group approached the UMC Board to offer to do some crisis management. You know, similar to what they did when they approached Canutillo for similar services. If you recall thats when Armando Rodriguez of the CISD board exposed their little exploits.

Let me explain were Maxi Pad is wrong. First, his constant assertion that County Judge Veronica Escobar is in a position to do anything. Look, one commissioner already took the most extreme step at their disposal, he called for a resignation of the appointee that was selected by his predecessor. And guess what happened? To put it in terms Maxi Pad can understand, not a phucking thing. She said she wasn't resigning.

The second part where Maxi is wrong is his assertion that Valenti didn't lie. I'm not sure why he wants to die on that hill but he insists. When someone says something intentionally that isn't true, its a phucking lie. Maxi Pad seems to think that making a distinction between fiscal and calendar year somehow changes the substance of what Valenti said is ridiculous. Especially when you consider Valenti's later comments about how he'd have given them more (the officers he gave a bonus to) if he could have. But Maxi Pad and his buddy do a lot of work with government types. He knows when budgets are formulated and knows that they couldn't have just pulled $300k out of the sky on a whim. It was budgeted and planned for.

Frankly I don't get why he's calling Leon stupid. Commissioner Leon knew exactly what to ask and Valenti screwed up in his response. Leon was smart enough to hold on to the email and release it to the media. Sounds more like sour grapes from Maxi Pad because Forma Group hasn't been hired by Leon's campaign last election cycle. Tsk tsk...

And now Martin Paredes. This guy is an even bigger joke that Maxi Pad if you can believe that. First, he is aligned with some not-so-savory characters politically. A prominent lawyer who's been surprisingly quiet lately, a developer, etc...He has the audacity to call his blog a news site. Hate to break it to you vato, but its not news. Its your commentary. You should come to grasp that soon because you're making yourself look pretty stupid.

A recent headline that was emailed to me said "Jim Valenti is a Liar and Needs to be Fired". He takes Valenti to task for lying about the bonuses. I don't disagree with him about that. But what is incredible to me is the fact that Paredes has the nerve to call someone else a liar because he misrepresented facts. Thats pretty much all Paredes ever does is misrepresent facts. David K could compile a book of his blog posts pointing out all the times Paredes does it. Hell, even his little photoshop jobs under score my point. He frequently plays with photoshop and will negatively doctor a picture to misrepresent what someone looks like. So Paredes calling Valenti a liar is the pot calling the kettle black.

However in the same piece he actually illustrates both points I'm making about him, #1 that he's not a news site and #2 that he misrepresents the truth. Near the end he asserts that there's some "political gamesmanship going on behind the scenes". He never says what the gamesmanship is. Never offers a single fact to back that claim up. He just throws it out there. Then he circles back and for good measure throws in Susie Byrd's name and the Children's Hospital and connects it to Escobar claiming that she needs the Children's Hospital to be "resolved for her political future".

Just because you don't like an elected official doesn't mean they are vulnerable McFly. Since Marty doesn't seem to know what the difference between fact and opinion, I'll do him the favor of illustrating what the facts are. McFly...stating that Escobar needs the Children's Hospital issues to be resolved for her political future" is an opinion. Now a fact is the recent election results. Escobar beat a well-funded candidate and a well-known candidate and did so without a run-off.

Your opinion doesn't jive with the facts.

It also doesn't jive with the fact that as much as you'd like to tie Valenti to Escobar, its Escobar, Perez, and Leon who have been most critical of what is going on at UMC. They are the only ones that have really taken any action on it (to the degree that they even can). Those are called facts McFly.

Thats all for now. You two may now go back to blogging about me. Maxi Pad, you can go back to obsessing about my haircut, how I dress, what beverages I consume and how they aren't as good as yours, women and how you love gringas, and my favorite sex positions. Just be careful Woody Hunt doesn't find out your doing it, pretty sure he might cut you off.. Marty McFly, you can go back to, well whatever your told to blog about by your masters.

Monday, November 24, 2014

City Rep District 1 Has First Candidate

In what will no doubt include a kindergarten class size field of candidates, the race for district 1 city rep has its first candidate out of the gate.

Sources say artist and activist Peter Svarzbein has all but formally announced his candidacy. He is likely going to do so formally next month.

Given the time frame you can expect a lot of candidates to start announcing their bids soon as well.

Svarzbein is best known politically for his work with the downtown trolley concept. Its always to a candidate's advantage to be out of the gate early as long as there is an actual ground-game taking place. So if he is implementing that strategy then he can use the time to position himself as the candidate to beat. But time is always of the essence and if someone else gets in and starts campaigning then there isn't an advantage.

I stole this from his Vimeo account so you have some context relating to who he is.

Interview with Maria Garcia 5.16.2012 from peter svarzbein on Vimeo.

Valenti Doubles-Down

In what its probably the worst public relations disaster this side of Gary Larcenaire or the Council of Judges, UMC CEO Jim Valenti doubled-down on the bonus this weekend.

In an interview in the El Paso Times about the bonuses he and other top officers received, Valenti said if he had to do it again, he would and he would give more.

Is he trying to channel his inner Marie Antoinette? Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!


This is how you know it was a bad decision. When it first became public no one from UMC wanted a microphone in their face. No one wanted to talk. Everyone was "unavailable". 

That is a sign that it was a bad move but they didn't have a plan to deal with the fall-out. Huge mistake when it comes to information. You need to be captain of your own ship and determine your own destiny. 

Then UMC people get tracked down and the quotes get worse and worse. Its like watching the Keystone Cops. 

So UMC decides to hunker down and get a plan together of sorts. Only its a terrible plan. I guess they figured if they threw the clergy out there to defend them they would be portrayed in a better light. Yeah nice try.

A lot of us have nothing to fear from the Cathedral Mafia so shoving Brother Nick out in front doesn't help. It only make him look even less connected to the community because he's defending a bad idea that is a slap in the face to those that were let go.

Then there's ABC 7 Xtra.

So Xtra does a show about this and County Commissioner Vince Perez is on but no one from UMC goes on the show. Are you guys trying to make this worse?

Here's a little secret, if there's an Xtra being done about an issue, you damn sure better have someone go on and give your side of the story otherwise you are just going to get pummeled on. Have you learned nothing from the Council of Judges?

And speaking of Commissioners, I'm glad that they are stepping up to be vocal against the bonus. Ultimately they aren't running the show though and anyone that tells you they are is an idiot. They can't force anyone to quite (Perez called for a resignation and it was ignored), they can't dissolve the board, they can't make them not give Valenti the bonus and they can't make Valenti give it back or by a ton of gas cards and give them to employees as a bonus instead. 

They are powerless. 

And for those of you that thought the "progressives" were big Valenti supporters your silence speaks volumes. The biggest critics of this move have been Escobar and Perez. 

There's a reason that the soon-to-be-extinct board members are standing behind their man. They are doing so because of Valenti's talent. I don't mean as an administrator. I mean as a salesman. If you ever speak to Valenti you will see right away that he his one hell of a salesman. Oscar Leeser would be even richer if he had that guy slangin' Hyundais for him. 

Here's a guy who has led the charge in building more stuff when they should be focusing on being efficient. So clearly he's good at the sales pitch. He's sold the board on him. 

And no doubt during this crisis he's had multiple conversations with each board member to make sure they are all solidly behind him. 

All of them have reputations that are going to take a hit. Too bad that Valenti is the only one who's reputation is taking a hit but he's getting paid. The board is just having their reputation take a hit for free.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

El Paso Dem Party Chair Hospitalized

El Paso Democratic Party Chairman Glenn "Butch" Maya has been hospitalized at Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo, Texas.

The Chairman was returning from TDP meetings in Austin, Texas with State Democratic Executive Committeeman and woman Don Williams and Becky Bustamante.

A source indicates that he started feeling ill in Sonora, Texas during the return drive to El Paso. He was then rushed by ambulance to San Angelo.

"He is okay, but he did have a mild stroke. He is staying for a couple of days to run more tests." Said the source.

More details later...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

City Rep District 1 Race

City Rep District 1 is one of the seats that will be up for election in the next cycle that is coming up pretty quickly.

I've heard rumors of a few candidates including one that I believe is currently under indictment. Surprisingly that candidate is rumored to actually have support (for now).

I just need to dot a couple i's and cross a few t's but tomorrow I should have at least one name of a confirmed candidate for that post.

Stay tuned....

Beginning of the End of Valenti

If you haven't seen the interview on KVIA between Darren Hunt and Jim Valenti regarding his bonus, you should. Valenti comes across as a real villain.

He was asked directly if he will return the bonus and Valenti flat-out said no.

Darren Hunt confronted Valenti yesterday about bonus and if he should give it back after having to track him down:

Watch the video because it's not often that you see a guy instantly signal the end of his career on video. I think in the eyes of the public he has just become the next Gary Larcenaire. Valenti comes across as ambivalent about the employees that were let go and almost defiant towards the community about the bonus.

This is when his career meets up with public opinion and frayed relationships with commissioners. Mark my words, this will ultimately be the beginning of the end for Valenti.

The part that is really gonna reverberate in the community is the fact that he is so defiant about accepting and keeping the bonus. Sorry, but given the timing and series of events we've been through as a community it is unbelievable that he is taking that stand.

He now makes himself a popular target. Other than the Board, elected officials were the only ones giving him any air cover. Now he lost that. The only people left that has is back are the Board members and after this even, it's doubtful that any of them get reappointed.

Seriously Brother Nick, way to look out for the downtrodden by giving a guy who makes 1/2 a mil another $120k!

Before that KVIA interview there was still a way for Valenti to turn the ship around. Since the reason he was given the bonus according to the story from the board was because of customer satisfaction, he should've taken the amount of the bonus and divided by the number of employees for the hospital and given them all a small bonus before the holidays. That would've shown leadership, would've shown he was aware of public opinion, and would've been a small gesture that would have been I appreciated by staff that made the bonus happen in the first place.

Most of all it would've demonstrated just how sick he really is about having to give 56 employees pink slips.

Instead he doubles-down on stubborn.


Now remember I said there wasn't really anything that commissioners court could do about this? Well that point was underscored by Commissoner Perez yesterday. He called for the resignation of Tania Chozets appointment to the Hospital Board. It's really all that any commissioner can do and they don't have to listen. Today we read in the paper that his appointment stands by the decision of the Board and intends to finish out her term. Commissioners court is powerless to do anything about it right now. But good luck getting a budget approved by commissioners court next year that doesn't address this issue.

And frankly, let's put blame where it needs to be. The Board members are the most culpable for not doing anything at all to stop this. Let's stop acting like they don't have the power to act. They could've pushed through a resolution saying that while they are obligated to do so by the contract that Valenti isn't required to accept it. They could've moved to renegotiate his contract and taken out those bonuses or modified it in such a way that stipulates that in a budget year where there is any type of RIF that a bonus inst awarded. They have plenty of options. And of all the options they choose, the one the go with is to pull a Tammy Wynette and Stand By Their Man?

They failed the community.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Body Count at the County

When I'm wrong, I'm usually the first one to point it out and this is one of those times. Yesterday I wrote that if the Public Works Director was to be ousted at the County that it would be the third major loss of a department head.

My bad.

The body count is actually higher. Twice the amount I actually said if you count Piti Vasquez from purchasing.

I forgot Jim Fashing from the Domestic Relations Office and Peter Cooper from the IT department. Clara Hernandez recently retired from the Public Defenders Office as well. She was replaced by Jaime Gandara and with the exception of Gandara, all the new hires for the positions have one thing in common.

They are all from out of town.

Certainly as tax payers we deserve to have the very best talent available and we shouldn't feel bad about wanting the best talent we can get our hands on. Its the best use of tax-payer dollars.

But it is difficult to believe that we don't have local talent that can't be harvested as well. The process to replace the department heads is generally pretty transparent but its a disturbing trend. Especially when you consider that all the other department heads in county government are elected officials. So volatility in the ranks of the non-elected department heads is concerning.

All I know is that with a body count this high at the County there is something we could really use right about now.

A medical examiner.

Valenti's Bonus - Tone-deaf to the Community

UMC Jim Valenti's Comments at a Recent Press Conference
So the Hospital District Board has given a big fat bonus to Jim Valenti to the tune of $100,000. Incredibly this is a bones based on his performance!

This is the exact kind of action that undermines the confidence of the public in government.

Before I continue with my rant, let me make sure you all understand something very important. This is NOT the fault of Commissioner's Court. Those of you that are running around saying that should pay more attention because you sound silly. The Court appoints the members of the Hospital Board but once they are on the Board they basically do what they want and there really isn't anything the Court can do about it.

The Hospital District Board gave him the bonus. Commissioners Court doesn't have the ability to give a bonus even if they wanted to. If you want someone to blame, here is a link to the Board Members of the Hospital District.

Lets put this in context. This bonus is more than three times the annual salary of an El Pasoan. And that is just a bonus, that isn't counting is regular salary. According to an article in the El Paso Times in 2012, Valenti received $430,580 in base salary with a compensation package that actually totals over $600,000 a year when you count his health and life insurance, car and cellphone perks.

Employees recently got pink slips because apparently there was not enough money to go around. Belts needed to be tightened in order to make ends meet...allegedly. But somehow there was an extra $100,000 laying around and they dropped it on Valenti?

You've got to be kidding me.

Sure $100k can't pay the salaries of all those employees but it is a terrible visual. This is why the public doesn't trust the government.

But for the sake of being fair, lets look at this from the UMC side of the equation.

The Hospital Board's position is likely going to be one of praise for Valenti. They will likely say that Valenti is an effective administrator and one of the best in the country. They will point to facts like customer satisfaction. They will say that UMC has one of the highest rates of uninsured patients while maintaining a low rate of tax contribution from the tax payers. They will also say that there is government data that says customer satisfaction and quality of care rank among the highest in the state and better than the for-profits in town. UMC has maxed out on the Medicare reimbursements which maximizes the financial stability of the organization and alleviates the burden on tax payers.

Jim Valenti must be completely tone deaf to public opinion and the community he serves. He is going to be the biggest bad-guy in town if he accepts the bonus. As recently as September he presented a budget to commissioners court that included staff cuts and no merit-pay increases according to this article in the El Paso Times.

What kind of guy professes to be "sick about" layoffs of staff, presents a budget with no merit-pay increases and then takes a bonus that is three times the salary of the average El Pasoan?

The relationship between UMC and Texas Tech has basically fallen apart. Under Valenti's watch the Children's Hospital has racked up a debt of $70 million to UMC, taxes have gone up, and 56 employees got their pink slips.

He cannot in good conscience take that performance bonus after a year like that. Even if all the other areas of his performance were superlative.

Margaret Althoff-Olivas, who handles media for UMC, should know when a media tidal wave is about to hit. This is the kind of story that practically begs the media to write negative stories about the organization. If she doesn't then UMC should hire someone who does. A story like this at a time of year when people have to stretch to make ends meet because of the holidays positions the UMC as the proverbial bad guy twirling his mustache while he waits for a train to run over the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks.

Oh, and by the way, sweeps are coming up for the stations. Guess who would love to do a series of stories on an easy target like UMC and Valenti?

For us, the lowly taxpayers, it really sucks to be tied to the train tracks. Toot, toot. Here comes the train again...

Monday, November 17, 2014

County Public Works Director Agenda Item

There's an agenda item on today's meeting of Commissioner's Court about the Public Works Director. Its item B on the Executive Session portion of the meeting and in Regular Session its item 14.

They may do nothing, but its always a big deal when the Commissioners go into Executive Session about a department head. As you recall the county recently lost its Elections Administrator. If there is action on Ernie Carrizal, the current Public Works Direction it would be the 3rd major department head to leave the County this year.

Earlier this year the Human Services Director Rosemary Neil also left the County.

That is a lot of institutional knowledge being lost at the County through department heads and its difficult to calculate the cost to tax payers to recover. That being said I don't know any details on the Elections Administrator or Public Works Director situation that would indicate one way or another if the cost to replace that institutional knowledge is or is not warranted.

Either way, you can't ignore the big elephant in the room. If the County loses another department head its a big deal. Especially when you consider that the Public Works Director oversees all the construction projects, road projects, parks, and historical assets belonging to the County taxpayers.

NOTE: Its possible the County takes no pubic action on this item following Executive Session. Personnel matters are generally not public record.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Catholic Bishops Put Religious Right in a Bind

Well, the religious arm of the Republican Party, which is to say MOST of the Republican Party, is now in a bit of a pickle.

Catholic Bishops have come out in support of President Obama's apparent desire to use executive powers to act on immigration.

This is the part where the Republicans show their true colors. The GOP loves to spout the name of the Almighty when it comes to a woman's right to choose and the gays. Seriously, you can't shut them up. I hear more references to God during those debates than I do on most Sundays.

Clergy, not just Catholics by the way, across the country have called comprehensive immigration reform a religious and humanitarian imperative.

But you know what they don't say? They don't say stuff like "secure the border first". Security first is just the GOP's way of kicking the can down the road as long as they possibly can. They have no definition of what a secure border is and so they are starting from a premise that no one understands much less agrees upon.

Put simply, the "party of family values" can't be the ones that are going to be responsible for splitting up families.

Let us not forget, as we go into the Christmas season, that the Holy Family were immigrants.

The hypocrisy of the GOP is all over the place when it comes to the question of immigration. The GOP want to through money at the border to militarize it to the level of the Berlin Wall. Funny how when it comes to funding healthcare and education you can't just throw money at a problem to fix it. But you apparently can when it comes to the border.

The clergy want immigration reform for humanitarian reasons and to keep families together. Yet Republicans call themselves the party of family values.

Lets play this movie out to the end. We all know what we are going to see. We are going to see mobs of angry white people who can't spell with signs terrorizing poor immigrants, shouting at them with bullhorns, waving confederate flags and spitting on a Latino superstar that they think is just another greaser spic to them.

Then ironically our own son of an immigrant Ted Cruz will call it amnesty while simultaneously and ironically invoking the name of Ronald Reagan, (he was the last President to actually implement amnesty by the way) lead the charge to hold America hostage and use the budget, shut down the government, etc to play political football with the issue while he strokes himself before a presidential run that he's going to lose embarrassingly in the future.

Meanwhile, we will continue to have a broken immigration system. We will still have businesses that need workers and we will still have workers who are willing to do the jobs that "real Americans" won't do.

And lets be honest about that while we are talking about it. Immigrants aren't "taking our jobs". Stephen Colbert pretty much put that to rest a couple years ago.

Although when the GOP inevitably screws this up, I guess in a couple years when a lot of congressman find themselves out of work I guess they will say that immigrants took their jobs.

Thats okay, you can always call up the United Farmworkers Union. I'm sure they can hook you up with a nice seasonal job. But you better learn Spanish Ted Cruz, the free market of the fields pretty much demands that you habla.

After all, this is America.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Javier Chacon Resigns as Elections Administrator

Okay so I've been contacted by a lot of folks asking me what happened with Javier Chacon. I have a ton of respect for the guy and like him a lot so I'm going to tread lightly here.

Elections Administator position is no where as easy as a lot of people might think it is. Its a lot to juggle, you have to work with all the municipalities, water boards (except the super secret ones that handle their own elections) school boards, etc in the County.

You have an electorate who couldn't be more disinterested in the election process if they tried.

There are a ton of election requirements that have to be met to comply with the Texas constitution and federal law.

You have to field election judges for all the precincts and you have to referee the Parties.

In the last year alone he had to oversee a primary, a run-off, a special election, and then the November gubernatorial election. Durin the special election the last thing the poor staff wanted was a run-off because that would've been ANOTHER election they had to pull-off. The special election was a short-notice thing and Chacon managed to make it work without a hitch.

He was always available to media and took the time to explain the complexities of a lot of election scenarious that aren't your everyday problems like special elections, incorporations, and redistricting.

Now what everyone wants to know is what happened. The short answer is, I don't know. But use your Spidey senses. There was a meeting of the Election Committee tonight. Then he submitted a hand-written letter of resignation.

All signs point to he was asked to resign. I don't know why, but I'm told by a source that there was a vote taken to ask for his resignation and the vote was 3-1 in favor of asking for the resignation.

I attempted to reach Javier Chacon but he was unavailable for comment. I'm sure more info will come out soon. Stay tuned.

The Texas GOP; Now With More Crazy!

Just when you think the Texas GOP can't get any more crazy they somehow find a way to take it to a whole other level.

Texas State Senator Donna Campbell, (obviously a Republican) wants to give businesses the right to fire LGBT employees and not do business with LGBT customers.

Way to go GOP.

All the real problems facing Texas and you guys focus on this. As a Democrat, I thoroughly appreciate you all very quickly pointing out to voters exactly how wrong they were for voting for the GOP in such large numbers.

Texas Democratic Party...this is what we like to call an opportunity. This is the exact kind of fruitcake nutiness that we need to tie GOP candidates to. The Republicans do it all the time. Remember that thing I wrote the other day about not having a message? This is a perfect example of how to leverage one.

Now the best part of this is that Senator Campbell is calling this religious liberty, which is to say that she'd like the ability to discriminate against a class of people because of religous scripture. There was a time when people said that the Bible gave them license to discriminate against Jews and anyone dark-skinned. The dark-skinned passage that was used to justify discrimination in the old days is in Genesis.

Do you people still think the Bible gives you the greenlight to discriminate against dark-skinned people? Wait, don't aswer that. Many of you probably do!

Here's the problem with governing using religion. Number one, who gets to decide what religion is the one we use? Since I'm a minister, can I start some revenue generating initiatives or do I need to go through some kind of tribunal? And what about all the stuff in the bible about not planting crops next to one another, being able to have multiple wives, being able to have slaves, or not cutting your hair, is there a particular order we should do those in or can I pick and choose which ones I follow?

How does that work in your perfect little mega church?

This represents yet another example of the misplaced priorities of the Republican Party. They campaign on the economy and legislate on the bible. The classic bait-and-switch.

Its also completely unnecessary. Guess what, this is Texas. You don't need a reason to fire someone. So that part of the legilsation is stupid. The part about refusing LGBT customers is even more funny. Part of me actually agrees. If a business owner is that much of a pendejo to turn down money because of who the customer has sex with then by all means, who are we to get in the way of their stupidity? We should let social Darwinism take care of those idiots.

Although there is a flaw in their religious logic. (Yes I am aware I used religious and logic in the same sentence) If your religion is that concerned with who your customers sleep with (something Jesus never addresses in the bible except when it comes to adultery), then you might not want to pry too much into the sex lives of your congregation. You never know what skeleton you're going to find there.

Or is that the next step? Do you small government types want to start having people declare their sex acts? Cuz if you do this should be fun! It's like the next logical step for Republicans after the Papers Please laws of Arizona! (Oops I did it again, this time I used logic and Republican in the same sentence. Silly me, bad blogger!)

Gotta love the GOP in Texas. They want government so small it fits in a woman's vagina.

One more question?

Am I the only one that thinks she looks like a closet lesbian?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

So...What the Hell Happened Last Week?

Last week was brutal. No bones about it.

What everyone wants to know is what happened. Well lets break it down a little. I told you guys that we were going to get swept at the statewide races. I told you the math wasn't there.

But if you want to find someone to blame, and trust me after an election lost there's no shortage of blame, look to the TDP's complete lack of effective messaging. Sorry guys, but depending on the gringa being hot isn't going to get people to the polls in the numbers we need.

We needed an effective message against Abbott and Costello, or whatever the crazy guys name is. Its not like there wasn't an effective message ready to be leveraged. There was plenty to go after with both of them.

The TDP had the chance to define the opponents and they didn't. We had what we needed. We had the money, we had the candidates, we had the infrastructure and ground game in place. What the didn't have was an effective message. This was a brand election and we didn't do anything to try to reverse the tide.

The TDP's inaction in formulating an effective message handcuffed the local counties across the state.

I actually got a chance to look under the hood at the local effort, which I'm pretty religiously critical of, and I saw something that amazed me. They did what they should've done locally. Money was raised and spent effectively. It wasn't blown on consultants, pachangas, and other feel-good-do-nothing old school rallies. It was spent in the field where it belongs. Maybe they spent a little too much effort on the youth, but thats a common mistake and not one that was going to change the out-come.

The TDP sent out a ton of emails, so much so that I eventually unsubscribed and still kept getting them, that kept asking for money. But in the worlds biggest waste of electronic media, they never gave people a reason to vote against the other two. Now the emails are going out to party activist and people who donate to the party primarily. The kind of people that can organically spread a message about the opposition through conversations at bars, barbershops, the nail place, and church through casual conversation.

Not once did I hear a meaningful attack on how anti-immigrant the ticket was. You'd think at the very least in a border community that would be a central theme. Did we hear that? Nope, we just heard about Abbotts suegra being brown.

And that had a huge domino affect on the two local elections that were banking on at least a decent showing from the Democratic Party. Julio Diaz did everything necessary to win. Sure he had his vulnerabilities that I mentioned, but they were never really capitalized on.

Haggerty didn't do any block walking and perhaps made a feeble attempt at phone banking. But for most of the campaign season, he did the usual ineffective campaign stuff.

And he still crushed Diaz.

That's how you know it was a brand election. Haggerty didn't have the organization in place to effectively leverage a GOTV effort that was reflected on Election Day. I bet he didn't touch more than 20% of the people that turned out.

Julio's effort was so strong that I even looked passed something I had said long ago, that the math wasn't there for the PCT 4 seat yet. But the expectation of a better turnout because of Wendy Davis had us all a little intoxicated with our own party Kool-Aide.

Normally I'm critical of the local party. But the blue-hairs weren't running the show this go-around. There was no expensive yet ineffective circle-jerk rallies, and no consultants got rich off our effort. There was a methodical plan in place that was properly executed.

We just didn't have a message that would encourage our base to go out to vote and influence anyone in the middle to vote for our side.

Win some, lose some. But you suit-up for every game.  

A Soldier's Sacrifice

As we pause to remember veterans today, lets stop and really think about what service means, about how we have benefited and about what the word sacrifice means.

Lets start by speaking a little truth to power shall we? The truth is, not everyone who serves or has served in the military is a hero. Lets not forget that Lee Harvey Oswald was a Marine at one point.

The reality is that most people who serve in the military are neither great nor bad. They neither excel or are a screw up. In fact, most of the time you basically want to be nothing more than middle of the road. You don't want to stand out, you want to be part of the pack.

Keeps you from having to do KP or “post beautification”.

Most people who serve as basically unremarkable. Except that their service is by definition, pretty remarkable.

Not everyone joins the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines because they want to defend truth, justice, and the American way. We all had our reasons for joining. Some wanted to get away from home, some had parents who pressured them in to doing it because they were lacking direction and getting in to too much trouble, others want to travel and some for the GI Bill.

Me, well I joined for a combination of reasons. One of the big ones was that I had a young wife to support and she later became pregnant. I wanted a way to support my family and get some college money on the back end of my hitch. I was also raised in an almost fanatically patriotic family who instilled in me a strong sense of duty. I wanted to prove to my grandfather and my father that I was a man.

I know, its silly. Although when you're a young man filled with more testosterone than brains it seems like a perfectly rational reason.

But mostly it was the college money. I chose the Army because my wife liked the dress blues.

I, like many other people, didn't really fully appreciate exactly what it was that I was doing when I signed on the proverbial dotted line. I was signing up to make a sacrifice.

The drill sergeants in 2nd Platoon, Delta Company, 2/46th Infantry Battalion made it clear on day one why we were really there.

To kill or be killed.

It was a simple reality that was meant to shock us but that sentiment is the most basic truth any soldier, sailor, airman, or marine faces. And it isn't until that moment that the reality of what you signed up for actually hits you.

Sure, its in the back of your mind while you're watching that “Be All That You Can Be” commercial on TV, but you don't really understand it until some stranger with a funny southern or Puerto Rican accent is yelling at you while teaching you how to kill someone with your bare hands.

Its then and only then do you realize, I might not make it back home.

The next thing you think of is, what the hell did I do??

Hollywood, and now all too often the media, show us a lot about those that make the ultimate sacrifice. Those that die in service to their county have their sacrifice well-documented. As it should be.

And sadly there are people that are in leadership positions in this day and age, who have probably had peers that have gone to war in Iraq or Afghanistan, that not only don't appreciate the sacrifice, but actually think of veterans in the same context as welfare recipients. These people have the audacity to think of service people as losers with no other employment opportunities.

Sad and embarrassing, but true nonetheless.

What many don't understand is that every service member makes a sacrifice. Even if they are really in it for the college money, or because they don't have a lot of other employment options, they have to make sacrifices that civilians don't have to make. And since we have an all-volunteer Army, they willingly make the sacrifice.

Personally, I think of the men and women I served with, and some vatos (Omar, Jeromy, Marty, Roman, etc) from the neighborhood that served as well.

But mostly I think of real bad-asses on Veteran's Day like my grandfather and his brothers that all served in World War II. My grandfather wasn't just a Marine, he was an Iwo Jima Marine. And after World War II what did he do? 

He then served in Korea leaving behind a young family (my pop is the little boy pictured). I think of my tio Juan Acosta who earned the Bronze Star in Korea and was such a humble guy that I never knew he earned the medal until his funeral. I think of my Uncles Bernie, Johnny, Marvin, and Russell and my Aunt Rita (who was the highest-ranking Abeytia to ever serve) who all served in Vietnam. Uncle Bernie wears a Marine Corp shirt or hat nearly every day. He makes sure every veteran in the family passes gets the military honors they are due.

My primo Brian, and now even his daughter, are now serving. Thats the sacrifice I think of on Veteran's Day.

Services members often laugh at your whining about an 8-10 hour work day. When you complain about having to be “on your feet all day”, think about that MP who is a single mom thinking about her kids while she's directing traffic for convoys in Korea on a night-time training op.

When you're pissed because you can't get wifi to work at the office so that you can check your Facebook notifications, think about the soldiers that would've done anything to have a care package sent to them with a calling card so that they could hear their mom's voice on the phone for Mother's Day.

When you're complaining about having to sit next to your brother-in-law you can't stand at Thanksgiving in a few weeks, think about the Marine who can no longer stand at all because he was on patrol after leaving his FOB in Afghanistan and hit an IED that blew off his legs.

The summer when you turned 21 and went to Vegas? Think about the sailor who turned 21 directing the take-off of a fighter jet on a carrier somewhere in the Indian Ocean. That time you went snowboarding with your buddies in Ruidoso? Think about the veteran that had to fight off frost bite walking his post at the DMZ with a frozen hunk of 8 pounds of M-16 looking across at a North Korean counterpart that would like nothing better than to tag an American GI.

Or remember when you went dirt-biking out in Red Sands? Think about the soldiers that went to Somalia and ended up with sand in parts of their body they didn't know existed.

And while you're out buying that perfect gift for your bratty kid who doesn't listen and will either break or be bored with the gift two weeks after Christmas, think about all the moms and dads that wore a uniform who missed a Christmas or two with their bratty kids that don't listen.

Everyone who ever put on the uniform, even airman who annoyingly call each other by their first names, made a sacrifice that civilians can never fully understand. Veterans were willing to put themselves in harms way to serve their country while praying every day that they wouldn't have to.

Think about that while you're bitching about waiting in line for your douchey over-priced venti cup of Who-Gives-A-Crap at Starbucks.

God bless our veterans.

And God bless America.